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Dolphins vs Vikings Reaction

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Stefanski coached his first game as the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator and he may have orchestrated the last game of Matt Burke‘s tenure as the Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator.

Maybe the miracle wiped the emotion out of everyone.

I’d say an illegal touching penalty on Brice Butler on the team’s 2nd possession was an omen that this game wasn’t going to go well. It may have been Matt Haack‘s punt from the Viking’s 45 yard line that ended up bouncing into the end zone that made for a perfect metaphor. Nope, it was most-definitely the 4th-down stop the Minnesota Vikings made when Ja’Wuan James virtually tackles Ryan Tannehill for a comical sack that summarizes this team’s performance today – and quite possibly, their 2018 season as a whole.

After sucking us back into the season in dramatic fashion last week against the New England Patriots, the Dolphins reminded us why they’re far from a playoff team with a lackluster performance on the road against the Minnesota Vikings.

We knew going into Minnesota would be tough, but we didn’t expect it to be embarrassing; though maybe we should have. The Dolphins are now 1-6 in road games this season – a consistent stain on Adam Gase‘s resume.

The good news? This was the only game Miami could afford to lose the rest of the season and still have a realistic chance at the playoffs. The bad news? Everyone else in the playoff picture (Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens) won.

Miami is going to need a lot of help if they want to make the playoffs, but it starts with consecutive victories against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills.

Below are a few things we noticed from Miami’s 41 – 17 loss to the Vikings:

1) Drain the Defense

This actually might start with the front office. Look at how Miami spent its cap space this season:

(team rank / player / cap hit)
1) Robert Quinn – $11.44m
2) Andre Branch – $10m
4) Kiko Alonso – $9.66m
5) Cameron Wake – $9.62m
9) Reshad Jones – $4.96m

The Dolphins gave up a 4th-round draft pick for their costliest player. They prematurely extended their second-most expensive player after he recorded 5.5 sacks and the team was desperate for defensive ends (they selected Charles Harris in the first round that following draft). Miami did the same with Kiko Alonso that same offseason (though it’s hard to complain about him after watching the rest of this defense). And the bottom two players on the above list are legends on a franchise that doesn’t make the playoffs.

This team was hit with a bunch of injuries, but we need to stop leaning on that excuse. There are no longer excuses as for why the Minnesota Vikings accumulated 101 rushing yards…in the first quarter. The team’s depth has been terribly exposed, and Matt Burke has not been able to adjust to the team’s most-glaring weakness.

Dalvin Cook came into this game averaging 45.9 yards per game and Latavius Murray came into this game averaging 36.2 yards per game. Cook finished with 136 yards and 2 touchdowns while Murray rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown of his own.

Although Robert Quinn added another (shoestring) sack to his total, he was noticeably getting wiped out of the play on the first two rushing touchdowns by the Vikings. Bobby McCain may have been watching too many replays of Rob Gronkowski last week during the Miami Miracle, because his angle on Cook’s first touchdown run was atrocious.

McCain wasn’t to be outdone, however, as Latavius Murray’s touchdown run in the first quarter came with a nice little stiff arm to Bobby McCain’s helmet – leading to a physical lapse by the cornerback compared to the mental lapse on the previous touchdown run.

We can excuse the few shortcomings Minkah Fitzpatrick has each week. Not only is he a rookie, but he’s being tasked with understanding every position in the secondary. McCain was at his natural inside corner position on those touchdown runs and was a detriment rather than the luxury that earned a contract extension this past offseason. In fairness to McCain, he did have a better second half, but after the Vikings had scored 21 points in the first quarter, it’s hard to compliment a player that put the team in such a tight bind.

Each time Fitzpatrick allows a reception I look at the play negatively. And yet, these are receptions that are going for maybe 8-13 yards at a time, not the 40-yard bombs that blow up an entire game plan.

The Derwin James vs Minkah Fitzpatrick debate is going to follow them their entire careers, but the biggest reason people have for selecting James over Fitzpatrick (as the better draft pick) is because the Los Angeles Chargers safety ‘makes big plays’. Fitzpatrick showed he can be equally as impressive when he read a Kirk Cousin‘s screen pass beautifully and took it to the house for a touchdown.

Maybe Minnesota understood how to expose Miami’s defense better than Bill Belichick, but it was evident the Dolphins missed Xavien Howard. Kirk Cousins completed just 2/3 of his passes, and only threw for 215 yards, but he didn’t really need much help from Adam Thielen or Stephon Diggs (even though they had plenty of open space to work with). Cousins completed 2 passes apiece to Tyler Conklin and Aldrick Robinson, but those 4 completions averaged 24.25 yards per play.

Outside of Fitzpatrick’s pick-6, this defense didn’t have too many bright spots. T.J. McDonald was exposed in coverage and Torry McTyer was beat on a long touchdown to Robinson. This defense has valuable core pieces, but it also needs an overhaul.

And it’s going to start with the defensive coordinator.

2) A Fireable Offense

Which stat would you like to pull out of this game that exemplifies Miami’s mediocrity?

  • 37 total passing yards (that’s not a misprint)
  • 11 passes completed
  • 193 total yards on offense
  • 2/12 3rd-down efficiency
  • 9 sacks allowed

That’s 2 more completed passes than sacks for those counting at home.

This doesn’t take into account two pass plays that Ryan Tannehill forced and Miami’s wide receivers needed to bat down. This doesn’t point out the fact that they gained some of these yards in garbage time.

One week after everyone was ready to anoint Tannehill the 2019 opening day starter, fans are back to clamoring for the top quarterback prospect in the draft – whoever it may be. They just need fresh blood.

Erase the 75-yard touchdown run Kalen Ballage had and this offense mustered 118 yards the entire game. That would have been 29.5 yards per quarter! A lot of the problems have to do with the offensive line, but we also have to recognize that a lot of offensive issues today stemmed from the Dolphins receivers.

The normally sure-handed Danny Amendola dropped two passes and also juggled a punt return late in the game. DeVante Parker was nonexistent (1 target). Kenny Stills caught one reception in garbage time. Brice Butler’s biggest play was negated because he stepped out of bounds and received an illegal touching penalty. Mike Gesicki caught a couple of passes, but makes no impact whatsoever on offense.

The team’s shiftiest running back (Kenyan Drake) is nursing an injury and was sparingly used while the team’s most reliable running back (Frank Gore) left the game in the first quarter with a foot sprain. A lot can be said for the poor quarterback performance today, but we also need to point out the collective failure of an offensive unit.

Similar to the defense, the issue might start with the front office. This is how the rest of the top-10 most expensive players rounds out for Miami:

(team rank / player / cap hit)
3) Kenny Stills – $9.75m
6) Ja’Wuan James – $9.34m
7) Ryan Tannehill – $8.68m
8) Danny Amendola – $6m
10) DeVante Parker – $3.46m

That’s a lot of average to non-existent production from Miami’s top-10 cap hits this season.

While quarterback will be the most-discussed topic this offseason, look for the Dolphins to overhaul their tight ends (once again) and their wide receivers, as it’s possible none of Miami’s receivers in 2019 were active for this game. There’s a good chance the only returning wide receivers from this year’s roster are Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant, both of whom have serious injuries that they might not be able to come back from.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Gore. Miami desperately needs to win these next two games, and if Gore is unable to perform near 100%, he may be the latest casualty to land on injured-reserve.

With Brandon Bolden and Kalen Ballage having good games for Miami, it’s possible they run with their current trio (with Senorise Perry as insurance) rather than risk an unhealthy Frank Gore.

If this happens to be the case, and Gore does indeed land on IR, it’ll be a disappointing way to see the running back’s season end. Gore had accumulated 722 rushing yards on the season (including this game against Minnesota) and was Miami’s most-durable and reliable option at running back all year. Though it may be hard to find space for him, signing Frank Gore near the veteran’s minimum would be a priority of mine next offseason.

The Dolphins look to play with our hearts again next week as they host the disappointing Jaguars in Miami.

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Waive TE Michael Roberts

Chris Kowalewski

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As the doors of the Dolphins’ training facility open to the newly signed rookie class, they close for another former Miami-hopeful after an active weekend of roster moves.

The Miami Dolphins have today waived TE Michael Roberts.

Roberts began his NFL career in 2017 out of Toledo as a 4th round pick of the Detroit Lions, possessing ideal measurements (6’5”, 265lb) for a playmaking TE.

A shoulder injury in December 2018 cut short Roberts’ time in Detroit and he was waived by the Lions following a failed physical as part of an attempted trade with the New England Patriots and subsequently waived quickly again after being picked up by the Green Bay Packers.

Roberts underwent reconstruction of the injured left shoulder in August 2019, having struggled both physically and mentally as his career path veered away from his dreams. Signed by the Dolphins in February 2020, it was hoped that Roberts could revive his NFL career in Miami’s TE room, competing with Durham Smythe for the TE2 spot behind Mike Gesicki.

At only 26 years old, it remains to be seen whether the young TE will be able to regain full health and return to the game, but the craziness of 2020 only puts further hurdles in his path as training camp rosters are reduced across the league to 80 players in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Don’t expect Brian Flores and his staff to sit on their hands when it comes to competition – 2019 highlighted on a regularly churning roster of names being given a chance to succeed – and this approach is expected to continue at certain positions. As such, Saturday’s news that former Chicago Bears’ TE Adam Shaheen had been acquired by the Dolphins ensures that healthy competition can continue to spread through the roster, and proves the willingness of the front office to give chances to promising players who may not have achieved during their first NFL stop.

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Miami Dolphins

In A Perfect World, Tua Tagovailoa Doesn’t Start a Single Game

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

If everything goes right, Tua Tagovailoa isn’t going to start a single game for the Miami Dolphins in 2020.

Nope, you didn’t misread that last sentence. Tua Tagovailoa riding the bench is the best thing that could happen to the Miami Dolphins this season, and if you think otherwise, then you haven’t been paying attention to what Brian Flores has been preaching since his arrival.

The obvious factor everyone is taking into consideration is the health of Tua’s hip. And while that definitely plays a part, it has minimal affect on his playing time. You see, barring a trade, Tua is the third-best quarterback on the roster right now.

Combine his inexperience, a COVID-restricted offseason, and that pesky hip injury, and it’s safe to say our questions have already been answered.

The Better Player Plays

With this team, it’s no secret that playing time is awarded based on a player’s performance both in games and during practice. It doesn’t matter where you were drafted or how much money you’re making, if you aren’t better than the athlete next to you, you aren’t playing.

In fact, didn’t we just go through a very similar situation last year when the Dolphins acquired Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals for a 2nd-round draft pick?

We all assumed that Ryan Fitzpatrick was keeping the seat warm until Rosen – a top-10 draft pick one season prior – was ready, but when Flores had the opportunity to simultaneously give a young quarterback experience and tank for Tua, he did neither. Instead, opting to (nearly) sabotage the opportunity to draft Tagovailoa and win as many games as possible with Fitzpatrick.

Rosen has much more upside than Fitzpatrick, but he couldn’t muster more than 197 snaps under center last season.

Just like that, the culture was set. Flores wasn’t fucking around – it was win at all costs, and the players bought in. One season later, that mantra certainly hasn’t changed.

Tua has more talent and better quarterback traits than Fitzpatrick and Rosen (probably combined), so there’s no arguing which quarterback we want to build a franchise around, but who is going to win the team more games this season?

I don’t doubt that Tua is a football genius that will pick up a playbook quickly, but knowing your plays and executing against an NFL defense are two completely different things.

Fitzpatrick has been in the league for 15 years while Tua has been in the league for 14 weeks; there is A LOT Tua has to learn before he can make the kind of reads Fitzpatrick can instinctively make after 139 starts in the NFL.

Josh Rosen may not evolve into an elite, franchise-saving quarterback, but he’s not terrible either. Two years of experience and a season-worth of starts (16) under his belt gives him an instant edge over Tua. The only thing that levels Rosen with Tagovailoa is they’re both learning Chan Gailey‘s offense for the first time – and for Rosen, this would be his 4th different offense in the past 4 years.

Otherwise, Rosen already has a rapport with the coaching staff, the medical staff, all of the workers in the building, and the receivers on this roster. In other words, he’s comfortable in his surroundings while Tua is trying to get acclimated to a brand new life.

There are going to be growing pains and a learning curve – two things we admittedly need Tua to experience in order to evolve. But the question becomes, when can Miami afford to experience those “opportunities”? Certainly not if they believe they are…

Playoff Bound

The Miami Dolphins – and most importantly, Brian Flores – believe they are in a position to make a legitimate playoff run.

Scoff however much you’d like at the notion that this team, one year removed from being “the worst team in the NFL”, is on a cusp of making a playoff appearance, but don’t tell anyone in the Dolphins’ organization that you think that.

A remastered secondary, a veteran presence among the front-7, an entirely new offensive line, and real, productive running backs means the Dolphins are all-but-guaranteed to improve on their 5-11 record.

In fact, the only thing holding them back from a legitimate playoff run is the quarterback position.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has won more than 6 games as a starter just once in his career, and Rosen only has 3 wins to his name (none as a Dolphin). If the team falters, it’s because these two quarterbacks couldn’t carry a well-built football team to the playoffs.

And that’s where the disappointment of another lost season is met with hope for the future. It won’t be until the Dolphins are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs that the team will trot Tua Tagovailoa out onto the field.

Waiting until so late in the season checks off every single box you need. It gives him time to:

  • Learn his way around the NFL
  • Understand the playbook better
  • Observe the game from the sideline
  • Gain chemistry with his receivers

Oh, and it also helps ensure that his hip is healthy, because…

I’m Sure He’s Healthy…

Being stuck inside during an international pandemic may have made it seem like a lifetime ago, but it’s only been three short months since we all clamored to a 14 minute video of Tua Tagovailoa throwing scripted passes; our eyes inexplicably glued to a man’s hips, unscientifically judging whether or not he was healthy. Try explaining that one to your significant other.

While we are all thrilled with recent medical reports and first-hand accounts from the quarterback himself, it would be downright idiotic to mess around with a hip injury.

The only reason Tua Tagovailoa was available at the 5th-overall pick was because of the uncertainty surrounding his hip, those concerns don’t suddenly disappear just because he’s on your roster and we’re excited to see our prized possession play.

Let his hip heal and let him practice against a secondary that includes Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Bobby McCain, Brandon Jones, Noah Igbinoghene, and Eric Rowe. He’s going to learn just how quickly throwing lanes close and how tight they are to begin with.

Don’t convince yourself that Tua has to start games this rookie season to be the elite quarterback he’s projected to be. Patrick Mahomes started one game his rookie year. Aaron Rodgers didn’t start until his forth season in the NFL. If all of the hype is real, then his career will be just fine.

The plan isn’t to count moral victories, but to win football games – and Tua Tagovailoa gives the Miami Dolphins the best chance to do that for the foreseeable future. But for now, Ryan Fitzpatrick is your starting quarterback, and until Josh Rosen relinquishes the job as backup, it won’t be Tua’s until 2021. Mission Accomplished.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Trade for Tight End Adam Shaheen

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

After a breakout 2019 campaign, it looks like Mike Gesicki will have some competition.

According to Pro Football Talk, the Miami Dolphins have traded a 2021 6th-round pick to the Chicago Bears for tight end Adam Shaheen.

A former 2nd-round pick (2017) out of Ashland University (Division II), Shaheen excelled during the combine, which led to an increase in his draft stock. The Bears jumped at the opportunity of molding a raw prospect, and selected Shaheen with the 45th pick in the draft. He was the 5th tight end taken in the draft that year, well above where he was originally projected when he declared for the NFL.

Though the Bears were optimistic, it seems Shaheen hasn’t lived up to his draft status. After three seasons, Shaheen has 26 receptions for 249 yards and 4 touchdowns. His playtime has diminished from 239 offensive snaps in 2017, to 160 in 2018 and 174 in 2019; with injuries playing a part the past two seasons. For comparisons sake, Durham Smythe had 482 offensive snaps last season alone (Shaheen has 573 for his career).

Shaheen became expendable after the Bears drafted Cole Kmet in the 2nd-round of the 2020 draft and signed Jimmy Graham to a 2-year contract earlier this offseason. With 8 tight ends on the Chicago Bears roster, you know something had to give. And from the perspective of a Bears’ fan, receiving any compensation for a likely roster cut is rewarding enough.

Trading a 6th-round pick means Shaheen is a favorite to win one of the backup tight end spots, should the Dolphins keep 3 on their roster.

It’s unlikely that Shaheen is a possible replacement for Smythe, as Shaheen is meant to be a receiving threat more than an in-line blocker, but there is so much untapped potential with Shaheen that it’s hard to guess what the Dolphins will receive from him.

We assume Mike Gesicki will continue to grow, but behind him, the cupboard is pretty barren. Shaheen adds much-needed depth to a tight end room that currently includes Smythe, Michael Roberts, Chris Myarick and undrafted rookie Bryce Sterk.

 

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